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8th Annual Peak Performance Symposium Draws in Leading Manufacturers on Trade, Technology, Talent

Smart Factory Institute releases details of new report on manufacturing workforce of the future

Trever Ehrlich, Creative Solutions Manager, Kenco Group

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – The Smart Factory Institute of Tennessee hosted the 8th Annual Peak Performance Symposium today, drawing in leading manufacturing companies from across the nation to discuss how manufacturers are maintaining a competitive advantage in the areas of trade, technology, and talent.

The all-day event offered a first look into the Smart Factory Institute’s new manufacturing collaborative community space within the Partnerships in Industry and Education (“PIE”) Innovation Center in Cleveland, Tenn. Throughout the day, attendees heard from more than 15 senior government, academic, and industry leaders, and participated in six interactive panels and sessions. Closing out the event, attendees were given an exclusive tour of the state-of-the-art WACKER multi-divisional plant in Charleston, TN, which includes both polysilicon and silicones (HDK) manufacturing.

“The Symposium is one of our most popular events for manufacturers, by manufacturers,” said Denise Rice, President and CEO, Peak Performance. “Local, regional, and even national leaders come together every year to share best practices on implementing new technology, expanding sales abroad, and matching technology innovations with the right skills and credentials.”

The featured panel discussion on the Made in America Movement included senior representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration, U.S. Commercial Service; the Export-Import Bank of the United States; Regions Bank; and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (SBDC) discussing programs and resources available to assist U.S. businesses in planning international sales strategies. Three additional panel discussions ranged in topics – from matching workforce talent with technology innovations, to what’s driving record manufacturing investment in the Southeast region, to why manufacturers should care about private enterprise networks.

During the event, Trever Ehrlich, Creative Solutions Manager at Kenco Group, presented a case

study on how Kenco stays at the forefront of warehouse and supply chain innovation with their industry-leading 3PL Innovation Lab, where he works with cutting-edge vendors of robotics, drones, and other technologies to vet, test, and deploy in the warehouse environment. Melvin Keebler, Vice President and General Manager with over 20 years of management experience at Jack Daniel’s Distillery, presented a case study on how Brown-Forman, manufacturer of Jack Daniel’s, implemented its largest technology project while maintaining their craft distillation process.

“The annual Peak Performance Symposium once again showcases how the Chattanooga region is at the forefront of building a competitive and innovative economy while leading the way in restoring manufacturing jobs in the U.S.,” said Randy DeCook, Director of Business Development, Smart Factory Institute.

Other presenters and panelists included representatives from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce; Cleveland-Bradley County Chamber of Commerce; Miller & Martin PLLC; Motorola Solutions; Mueller Co.; Nokian Tyres; Tennessee Manufacturers Association; Tennessee Valley Authority; Terracon; and the University of Chattanooga.

“We’re thrilled to have some of Tennessee and the Southeast region’s finest manufacturers showcase their innovative solutions at the Symposium,” said Bradley Jackson, President and CEO, Tennessee Manufacturers Association and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “We are proud to partner with The Smart Factory Institute and appreciate their focus on Industry 4.0 in convening these types of forums that are crucial to ensure Tennessee remains highly competitive in the global manufacturing marketplace.”

Closing out the Symposium, Mary Beth Hudson, Executive Director, Smart Factory Institute, gave a sneak peek into the Smart Factory’s second report commissioned by the University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychology program. The report, titled “Identifying Essential “Smart Worker” Characteristics for Industry 4.0 Manufacturing: A Future-Oriented Work Analysis,” establishes a baseline or version 1.0 profile composed of the most critical knowledge, skill, ability, and other (KSAO) characteristics workers will need to succeed as the “smart workers” in future Industry 4.0 manufacturing settings.

Findings in the report will be revealed during the Smart Factory Institute’s next signature event, the Smart Workforce Conference, taking place on December 8 from 9:00am-3:00pm ET at the Smart Factory Institute located in the PIE Center. To sponsor the event, contact Mary Beth Hudson at or purchase directly online. Tickets to the event can be purchased online as well.

About Smart Factory Institute

The Smart Factory Institute is a business-driven effort guided by the Tennessee Manufacturers Association driving innovation and technology in Tennessee and the southeastern United States. The Institute, operated by Peak Performance Inc. and located at the Bradley County Partnerships in Industry and Education (PIE) Center, is an exclusive U.S. institute providing manufacturers with connections, collaborative relationships, and certifications for improving manufacturing processes by providing them with access to the latest technology in advanced manufacturing. The global network of Smart Factory Institutes by Deutsche Messe is comprised of leading companies and organizations in advanced manufacturing. For more information, visit

About Peak Performance Inc.

Peak Performance Inc. is a workforce training and consulting firm specializing in incumbent worker training for the manufacturing industry, and operators of the Smart Factory Institute, serving businesses across the country from their headquarters in Cleveland, TN. Peak Performance equips its customers to transform their operational strategy through comprehensive, sustainable solutions in people and processes. Their services are unique, customizing the training to their client’s needs, and using real-world simulations and instructors from the manufacturing industry. For more information, visit

Photos courtesy of Smart Factory Institute and Peak Performance Inc.


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